Against the backdrop of Nigeria’s huge security challenge, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday gave his support for the introduction of state police. The vice president spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolou Akande in a radio programme monitored in Akure.
He said that the fear of abuse of the force by state governors, which critics had regularly held as part of the reasons for their opposition to the establishment of state police formations, remained untenable against the backdrop of the persisting allegations of the abuse of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) by those who currently run and control it.
Well, I want to align with the thoughts of the Vice President. I believe that we are more than ripe for state police in today’s Nigeria. What is happening in Nigeria now demands not only the state police, but also local government police because in those days as far back as 1950s, we used to have the constabularies who were the local government police and they were very effective, dedicated. The question is where did we miss it? We missed it when the military decided to jettison the true federalism we inherited from our colonial masters and now replaced it with unitary system of governance.
Now, I don’t know how it will be possible for a Gbenga to be posted from Ogun State to Potiskum and you expect him to understand the social, cultural and religious sentiments of the people and be able to police them effectively. The same thing applies to a Paschal posted to Daura in Kastina or a Mohammed posted to River or Abia. This is just not normal if you are really practising true federalism. It should be such that the state should have their own security apparatus and manage it, given the realisation that it is the state governments that are actually funding the police.
The allocation to the police is usually mismanaged to the extent that nothing is provided for the police except their uniforms and monthly salaries. So, the kitting, the vehicles they use and other running costs are being shouldered by the state governments. What then stops us from decentralising it? In view of what is going on now in the country, anybody saying we are not ripe for the state policing must be absent-minded. And that is why the call for State Policing by Vice President Osinbajo is a sign of hope for a new Nigeria in the making.
Without mincing words, same over-centralisation is not only affecting the police, it is also affecting the Federal Civil Service whereby the issue of budget implementation becomes a problem. How do you expect a director or permanent secretary that sits down in Abuja to know what is going on in Imo or Delta? It is not just possible.
There can never be effective supervision. If you are to run an efficient government, whoever is employed in any particular local government should be made to start his career and end it there. The same applies for the state. Then at the federal level, as much as possible, most of what you call exclusive lists should be devolved in some of the states. Then let us eliminate those on the concurrent lists from the federal arrangement. Let it be exclusive for the states so that they will be able to do it most effectively.
Considering the state of insecurity in the country, if the police within a border town, say Ijebu, arrest someone for a criminal offence and it is supposed to be at the inter-change with Oyo, the normal thing is to hand the criminal over to the police in Oyo town, and if the crime committed is of national magnitude, then he should be handed over to the national police.
There is no problem without solution. But running away from it is to keep postponing the evil day. And we have postponed it now to the level where quality lives are being lost every day. It is very unfortunate we are where we are but hope is not totally lost for the country. State Policing is working in other climes, and if it is, there is no reason why it cannot work here in Nigeria.